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For Fans Who Should Know Better

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Mudville: May 28, 2024 10:44 am PDT

Goodbye Baseball

BY KEVIN KERNAN

Believe what your eyes are seeing, not what you are told to believe.

Baseball in 2024 is in a dangerous spot. Going into this week two teams were hitting under .200, and you are supposed to pay major league money to see a game – and pay major league concession prices. Those two teams are the White Sox at .196 and the Twins at .194.

The Blue Jays are hitting .196 on the road.

If your team can’t hit .200 you should be allowed to go to a game for $5 and you should get half off your concessions. After all, you purchased the ticket with the intention of seeing Major League Baseball, not some bizarre hitting experiments by Nerds in the front office with the blessing of Nerd ownership.

This should be a fan’s right. And for all those teams just hitting above the Mendoza Line, you should get ticket prices and concession prices slashed as well and games should be much cheaper to watch on television.

It’s only fair.

The Mariners are at .210. The Marlins and Tigers are at .215. The Red Sox are hitting a lofty .226. Thirty-seven players are currently hitting under .200.

They tell us the game has never been better. They tell us the pitching has never been better, yet injuries and bases on balls are the two constants of this MLB game. And taking strike three right down the middle because the batter was looking for something else and simply gave up on the pitch is now an accepted practice.

Compete is out the window. If you don’t get your pitch, tip your cap, and go double check your strikeout at the iPad station.

To their credit, former players are beginning to speak up more and more. Current players better start speaking up more and more. Especially pitchers. They are becoming elbow surgery extinct.

It is no longer the game where the batter goes up to the plate with a competitive mindset, an “I will not strike out’’ mindset. This 2024 batter has been told by legions of Nerds that strikeouts don’t matter so that has become a truth in his warped sense of hitting.

Pitching command is out the window too, but they tell us this is the best group of pitchers to ever pitch in the game. The Marlins, who are an analytical test tube under current leadership, had their pitchers walk a stunning 82 batters in the first 17 games, that’s just about five walks per game, and you thought Little League pitchers walked a lot of hitters. Welcome to Gabe Kapler World.

The Astros walked 79 hitters the first 18 games. The Rockies and Padres walked 75 hitters the first 17 games. The other night on Sunday Night Baseball on ESPN, which is supposed to be essentially the Game of the Week, the Dodgers walked 14 Padres in a 6-3 loss.

Former major league player Jeff Frye points out all of the individual hitters batting under .200 on his popular social media pages. Joey Gallo, who has been paid millions upon millions of dollars, recently went through an 0-for-11 streak with nine Ks. He is batting .151 with 26 Ks and only eight hits in 53 at-bats. For the record, he is a lifetime .196 hitter who has made $36 million.

Stay hot! Cashing checks.

But that is what the Nerds have given us, all with the blessings of commissioner Rob Manfred, who loves to be called “Commissioner.’’

To their credit, former players are beginning to speak up more and more. Current players better start speaking up more and more. Especially pitchers. They are becoming elbow surgery extinct. Throw as hard as you can for as long as you can and be replaced by another arm. Salaries aren’t going up if pitchers continue to live on the Injured List. The Braves’ Spencer Strider was smart to sign an extension after the 2022 season, a six-year $75 million deal that includes a $22 million option with a $5 million buyout for 2029.

Joey Gallo #24 of the Washington Nationals looks on walking back to the dugout after he was called out on strikes against the Oakland Athletics in the top of the sixth on April 13, 2024 at the Oakland Coliseum in Oakland, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

The injured list has some big Cy Young pitching names on it in Justin Verlander, Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer, Jacob deGrom and Gerrit Cole to name a few.

This is not the same game it once was, and it is becoming more evident every day.

Former major league pitcher Kip Gross has been keeping tabs and he compiled a list of how the game has changed since Rob Manfred took over as commissioner. This is Kip’s list, not my list and you may not see it exactly as Kip sees it but here it is to check out. It is well worth your time because Kip looks at the big picture here by looking at the small picture, all the changes.

Here goes, Kip:

“What the commissioner has changed…

Reds starting the season (Opening Day in Cincinnati) finished

Gambling in stadium now permitted

Can’t fake a throw to third

Can automaticity walk batter without throwing a pitch

Defense can no longer play where they want

Runners must slide directly into a bag

Infielders can no longer put any part of their bodies in front of a bag when a runner is sliding

Catcher must stay in his lane when tagging a runner

Bases are larger

Pitcher can only throw to a bag three times and if unsuccessful the third time the runner gets the next base

Pitch clock

Hitter clock

Rosters expanded to 26 players

Suspending players who are innocent of wrongdoing and blackballed

Can only have a certain amount of pitchers on a team

Disabled List changed to Injured List

Disabled List was changed from 15 days to 10

Pitchers now wear head gear to get signs from catcher

Middle infielders have head gear to get signs from catcher.

Distance between bases has been shortened

A hitter can now strike out without seeing a pitch

Only get a few visits to the mound as a coach

DH eliminated in National League

Extra innings…Runner on second, no outs.

Relief pitchers must face 3 hitters or finish the inning

Loaded baseball for record performances

Pitching 7 innings of no hit ball which is the end of the game doesn’t get you a no hitter

Umpires checking pitchers while leaving the field for illegal substances

Advertisements on jerseys

First game of the season in Korea (see Cincinnati)

Different rules for the playoffs with no runners on 2nd base in extra innings

Pitcher cannot come set until the hitter is looking at the pitcher or he gets a ball called

The hitter must look at the pitcher within so many seconds or he gets a strike called

Front office has changed

Catchers now set up on one knee and miss many many balls

Pitchers get hurt at alarming rates

Pitchers taken out of games even though they haven’t given up a base runner in 7 innings

Hitters are striking out at a bigger pace than Nolan Ryan’s career averages

Only a couple of .300 hitters each year

Wins don’t matter to pitchers anymore

What am I leaving out?’’

Reds. pitcher Kip Gross #59 in action against the Pittsburgh. Pirates. (Photo by Tom G. Lynn//Time Life Pictures/Getty Images)

Kip, that pretty much covers it all, congratulations to you and it is startling when you see all the changes lined up in a row. And by the way, the uniforms have changed into sweat-gathering, too small print imposters of former classic uniforms as well.

What is going on?

Speaking of catchers not catching anymore, did you happen to see the eighth inning of the Mets-Pirates game Monday night? The game was tied 3-3. There was one out, the Mets Jeff McNeil was at the plate. Aroldis Chapman was on the mound, lefty vs. lefty. Chapman threw one his patented Chapman sliders, a pitch that was going to dig into the dirt for sure.

Yet as I was watching the setup of catcher Henry Davis, it caught my eye that Davis was down on one knee on an 0-2 pitch with no one on base. Surely Chapman was going to bury a slider. Surely Henry Davis was alerted to the fact by some Nerd at some point in the day -even though Davis has been catching for a long time but is not thinking for himself.

Chapman did what was expected and buried the pitch.

McNeil swung and missed for strike three, but Davis did not get in front of the pitch like catchers had been getting in front of pitches for 100 years. He swatted at the baseball, it kicked away and McNeil was safe at first. Davis unwisely threw the ball into right field but McNeil was not super alert and did not go to second, there was a good backup on the play, maybe McNeil was thinking of giving a congratulatory dance to the dugout; maybe he was still chaffed about the Brewers Rhys Hoskins sliding into him at second base a while back, a perfect baseball play where McNeil went ballistic on Hoskins. To Hoskins’ credit, he got up and gave the “Cry me a river, baby’’ sign to McNeil.

McNeil played it safe, which is fine, he was on first.

The bottom line it should have been out No. 2 but the rules of engagement and the catching rules have been changed, don’t bother to catch the ball, get on one knee and steal a strike, if you happen to catch it. No catch. No harm. Plenty of foul.

McNeil essentially stole first base (Yes, you can steal first base in 2024) thanks to Henry Davis’ misplay. Chapman was given a wild pitch on the play, a play that would have been strike three and blocked in previous baseball generations.

You know what happens next, the Mets took the lead in the inning, and they even had a double steal as McNeil made a heads up play breaking for third and was totally ignored by Chapman. By the way, the Pirates and the Mets have yet to throw out someone attempting to steal a base this year, something else that has changed drastically in the game. It hasn’t been this easy for base runners to steal a base since the development leagues in Little League. How in the world anyone gets thrown out is beyond me. But that’s just another change for “the betterment’’ of the game under the Commish, who loves to be call the Commish.

Haven’t you heard? MLB has never been so good. If you don’t believe me, ask Rob Manfred when you catch him coming off the golf course.

Davis, by the way, was the first pick of the 2021 draft and was presented with $6.5 million by the Pirates. It’s been a rough start to his career as he is batting .170 this season and .206 over his first 76 games in the majors, but as the Nerds have told us over and over again, batting average doesn’t matter. Blocking balls in the dirt doesn’t matter. Henry Davis is doing exactly what the Nerds want him to do.

Don’t blame Henry Davis. He’s only 24, hopefully he finds a way to believe in himself and be the catcher that he was at the University of Louisville, where I think it was important to hit for average and block balls in the dirt.

Catcher Henry Davis #32 of the Pittsburgh Pirates in action against the Philadelphia Phillies of a game at Citizens Bank Park on April 12, 2024 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

You see, folks, the joke is on you. You are the one still paying major league prices for a level of play that I wouldn’t even dare to call minor league. It is much worse than that.

They have changed the game across the board, made it worse in every way, all with the blessing of Manfred and his Minions who have created this new game that used to be called baseball.

You are paying the freight. You are watching a game that is not the same game that Kip Gross played or Jeff Frye played or superstars like Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle played. MLB once again celebrated Jackie Robinson on Monday on Jackie Robinson Day and good for them, that is a great day, but just imagine if Jackie Robinson saw the way the game is being played today and what would he think of it, a man who played the game hard, a man who played the game the right way, a man who knew that winning was the goal, a man who knew that batting average mattered.

On this Jackie Robinson Day I thought to myself, what would Jackie Robinson think about what has happened to his game?

And what is it with all the betting business partnerships?

Over his 10-year career, Jackie Robinson batted .311. He stole 200 bases when it was a legitimate stolen base, not a “you can’t throw over stolen base” with pizza box bases. In 1949 he stole 37 bases to lead the National League and also led the NL in hitting with a .342 mark. Three American League hitters did a bit better. Joe DiMaggio hit .346, George Kell batted .343 as did Ted Williams.

The game was much different back then, just check Kip’s list, much better and much more competitive. Goodbye baseball. We really miss you.

Please come home someday.

45+ years, columnist at NY Post for the last 23 years prior to joining BallNine. Elected to the NY Baseball Hall of Fame. Former SportsTalk Host (KFMB), ESPN’s First Take and Cold Pizza contributor. Frequent guest on radio shows and podcasts nationwide. Author of seven books. Seen in episode 10 of ESPN’s “The Last Dance” (the one with Dennis Rodman). First baseball interview he conducted was with Thurman Munson. Now you know why he is America’s Most Beloved Sportswriter.

Comments
  • Manfred also responsible for adding another round to the playoffs…

    April 17, 2024
  • TJ

    Kevin,
    Is there anything on Kip’s list that you think is good for the game?

    April 17, 2024
  • Bernard Connaughton

    Manfred also had expansion of Inter League baseball, and Europe games.

    April 19, 2024
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